- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Prince George’s County Police Department is forming a new investigative division this year in a bid to streamline casework and boost case closures, according to police officials.

Approximately 200 detectives who investigate crimes ranging from thefts to nonfatal shootings will now comprise the Regional Investigation Division and report through a reorganized chain of command that centralizes the responsibility of overseeing those investigations.

While detectives remain based in the department’s six police districts, Assistant Police Chief Kevin Davis said the change will allow the department to better identify countywide crime trends and more quickly respond to them developments officials hope will lead to more arrests.

“The old chain of command would report to district commanders, who amongst a dozen other things were responsible for investigations,” Chief Davis said. “This chain of command exclusively focuses on investigations.”

That new focus is overseen by Maj. Joseph McCann III, former commander of the department’s Special Enforcement Division, which included specialized units that investigated crimes involving specific problem areas such as nightclubs or pawnshops. Detectives will report up the chain to three captains Capt. Harold Simms in the northern region, Capt. Meredith Bingley in the central region, and Capt. Charles Hamby in the southern region rather than six separate district commanders and a host of other smaller units.

Police now see criminals hitting wide swaths of the county rather than focusing their activities on particular neighborhoods, and Chief Davis stressed that the department needs to be able to change its approach to adapt to their mobility.

“I think right now we see trends and we just aren’t able to react quickly enough,” Chief Davis said. “What we don’t want to do is realize for the first time there have been 30 residential break-ins in a community and then do something about it. We want to get them at, like, three.”

Rank-and-file officers were initially anxious about realignment under the Regional Investigation Division, Fraternal Order of Police President Vincent Canales said. But that was mostly fueled by rumors about how the new structure would affect their jobs and has since petered out as the changes were explained, he said.

“This is kind of the first major shift in command,” Mr. Canales said. “This is a new direction that the agency wants to take. I think there is a desire to have tangible results with this being implemented.”

In mid-December, the department announced that overall crime was down in the county by about 7 percent last year compared to 2011. Chief Davis said he hopes that the new focus the division will bring to investigations will further the decline.

Down the road, the new command structure will also lead to better-prepared detectives, Chief Davis said. Previously, when positions for detectives opened at a police district, the positions were only advertised to those from the district, he said.

The new structure will put the call out across the department, presenting a wider pool of talent. More rigorous training, including required classes on search warrants and forensic evidence, would also become the norm for detectives once they make the cut.